Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Beyond the ñ: Life and language in 'Loce ANNE-ju-less'

A highlight for me this year was moderating a panel at KPCC's Crawford Family Forum on the evolving cultural identity of Los Angeles in the 21st century, an inevitable change as the region's image has given way from that of a sleepy sun-kissed paradise set to a Beach Boys soundtrack to that of the vibrant, polyglot metropolis it is today.

The inspiration for the panel came from the work of one of my guests, local author D.J. Waldie, who last January wrote a lovely essay for KCET on the lost "ñ" of "Angeleño." While denizens of our fair city are now referred to as Angelenos (pronounced "Angelinos"), they weren't always.

Waldie has written another essay on language and Los Angeles this week for KCET, this time moving beyond the Ã± to how we pronounce other vestiges of our Spanish-language past, including the name of the city ("Loce ANNE-ju-less"). From the piece:

Oddly, speakers get some colonial-era pronunciations right without effort: Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is never pronounced Roe-DEE-oh. But Cañon Drive is pronounced Cannon. Most people say del-AH-mo when they read Del Amo, which is reasonably correct. But Ximeno is always ex-ZIM-ah-no and never hee-MEN-oh (with the "hee" spoken from the back of the throat).

Other names of streets and places seem never to have settled down. Junipero Avenue in Long Beach is alternately wan-a-PEAR-oh and hoo-NEE-pe-roe.

Linguistic purity or Anglo pronunciation mash up? San PEED-row or Sahn-PAID-roe? Loce Faye-LEASE or Loss-FEE-less?

Language is obviously a utilitarian tool. Whatever communicates successfully in what ever way it's said is enough. Los Angeles can be said in any way that works, no matter what the sounds you make. But language also is a repository for memory.

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